March 07, 2017

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Georgia's athletic director showed his support for embattled coach Mark Fox on Tuesday.

Greg McGarity took the unusual step of issuing a statement rebutting a report by Yahoo Sports that Georgia was evaluating possible candidates to succeed Fox.

McGarity's statement said ''we are NOT in the process of exploring our options to replace Mark Fox. We look forward to Mark leading our program next year and all of our efforts are centered on postseason play.''

Fox is in his eighth season as Georgia's coach. The Bulldogs head into the Southeastern Conference Tournament with an 18-13 overall record and 9-9 mark in league play.

Georgia is still hopeful of landing an NCAA bid, but most projections have them missing out on the tournament for the sixth time in Fox's career. The Bulldogs likely would need an upset of No. 9 Kentucky in the SEC Tournament to have any shot.

With a team featuring high-scoring Yante Maten and J.J. Frazier, the Bulldogs came into the season with high expectations.

But a series of close losses turned up the heat on Fox, who also had to deal with losing Maten to a sprained knee three weeks ago.

Despite the setbacks, Georgia did finish the regular season on a bit of a roll, winning five of its last seven games. Fox said Maten could return if the Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament, but the forward's status this week is uncertain.

Georgia opens the SEC against Tennessee on Thursday. If the Bulldogs win that game, they would advance to face top-seeded Kentucky, which has won eight in a row, in the quarterfinals.

McGarity had previously declined to comment on Fox's future, saying he wouldn't discuss the coach or his team until after the season.

That changed Tuesday.

''It's unfortunate we need to respond at this time,'' McGarity said in his statement, ''but it was necessary to quiet these unfounded rumors.''

Fox, who previously coached five years at Nevada, has a record of 144-116 with the Bulldogs, including a 70-68 mark in SEC play.

Georgia has made only two NCAA appearances during Fox's tenure, losing in the first round in both 2011 and 2015. The Bulldogs also have been to the National Invitation Tournament twice, going out each time in the second round.

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